How to Build a Unicorn Startup 🦄

How to Build a Unicorn Startup 🦄

In my many years spent working at startups, high growth businesses have always been my passion. Yet, it was not until my entrepreneurial journey led me to become the founding CTO of FabFitFun — a $1B+ valuation unicorn — that I truly appreciated the profound impact that a people-centric culture and member-centric approach could have on a company’s growth trajectory.

The Power of Focus

My first experience with a high growth company was in 2004, when I was developing an online game that, from 2007 to 2009, would garner over 40 million visitors each month. But in 2005, when the game first started generating revenue, I divided my attention, building fifteen other online businesses. While they were all profitable, none matched the potential or reach of my game. Reflecting on this, I learned to focus on one thing at a time, prioritize my ideas, and to delegate when necessary.

Think about it like this: it’s like using a magnifying glass to focus sunlight on a single point, igniting a flame. When you direct all your efforts towards a singular goal, it becomes a relentless fire, propelling you forward, incinerating all obstacles in your path. That’s the power of focus, a focus we had at FabFitFun.

The Importance of a People-Centric Culture

As a business leader, I always wanted to be where the action was — the steeper the growth curve, the greater the thrill. So when FabFitFun offered the opportunity to be a part of a company growing exponentially year-over-year, I seized it. The experience was exhilarating, with challenges cropping up as fast as our team doubled in size each year. Our consistent performance earned us our place as one of the fastest growing companies in America.

But amidst this breathless race to scale, it was the culture of FabFitFun that truly made it an extraordinary journey. I had seen the other side — work cultures so demanding that we pursued the dollar at the expense of everything else, forgetting our own health and happiness, and inevitably leading to burnout. But at FabFitFun, I discovered a culture where employee growth was as critical as the company’s growth.

Preserving the Culture during Rapid Growth

As we scaled, however, our most significant challenge was maintaining this unique culture. In the past, I had witnessed businesses where leadership failed to value their employees and did not encourage initiative. This kind of toxic culture seeps into every facet of a business like a terminal illness.

But at FabFitFun, the positive, friendly culture was part of our DNA, driving us to value our people above all else. We each acted as stewards of this culture by ensuring we only hired new people who shared our core values and commitment to the mission.

Putting our Customers First with Personalization

But a people-centric culture was only one side of the coin. To sustain our growth, we knew we needed to place equal importance on understanding and meeting the unique needs of our members. This led us to explore greater customization — from hundreds of product variations to a fully personalized experience. We dreamed of transforming the FabFitFun box into “your” FabFitFun box, tailored to your unique tastes.

By collecting extensive data from our members, including through an onboarding quiz with a remarkably high completion rate, we were able to deliver a fully personalized member experience. This degree of customization, we believed, was the key to securing our future in a competitive market.

Lessons Learned and the Road Ahead

My journey with FabFitFun taught me a powerful lesson: companies that truly value their people and work relentlessly to meet customer expectations not only achieve extraordinary growth but also create environments that nurture fulfillment and happiness. This twin-focus was central to our success at FabFitFun, and I believe it’s a blueprint for sustainable growth for businesses worldwide.

If you’re constantly learning and improving yourself, you’ll never be obsolete. In other words, you’ll never be out of a job, and your unique skills and knowledge become your competitive advantage. This is not just true for individuals, but also for companies.

In the world of business, it’s the companies that adapt, learn, and continually seek to improve themselves that stand the test of time. By embracing this mindset, you set yourself up for enduring success. And who knows? Perhaps your journey, too, will lead you to build the next unicorn.


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